I’ve read quite a few articles and posts lately about how email rules our business lives and it should be tamed or completely done away with. Some think that it’s days are past and they offer new ways to communicate with co-workers, clients, etc.
I’m not so sure I agree.
Yes, I get my share of emails, about 150 a day. 60 to 70% need some sort of reply or action. Some days it’s difficult to get through them all and some days I do not make it to the end. But still, email is a very much needed medium of communication.
Here are a few of the suggestions these articles offer and why I don’t think they are accurate.
- You should never use your inbox as a ‘to do list’. Not sure this is always true. If I triage my email in the morning (more on that later), I’ll likely not get to act on every email. Does that mean I should stop the triage and act on every email right then? That is problematic in many ways. One, I may not have all the information I need at that moment. Maybe some research has to be done, or I need to actually speak to someone else before I can respond.
- Never check email first thing in the morning. How many jobs does this apply to? If you do not need to see what happened since you last checked email (probably the night before) I’m not sure you have an important job. And certainly not one that involves clients. If someone is expecting an answer to a problem or needs to coordinate a call or meeting, knowing that information before you start your day is critical.
- Setup rules to move all but the most important emails out of your inbox. This one I can agree with to a certain extent. The problem with rules is they are a blunt tool. They move ALL emails that meet a certain criteria. Usually the suggestion is to set a rule that moves all emails your are cc’d on to a secondary folder. Or all emails that start with FYI. There is a reason why someone either copied you on the email or sent it as a FYI, you NEED to know something that is contained within the email. What if you didn’t see the email that included the information you needed before you went into your staff meeting? What? You missed the info. That’s on you and the rule.
Part of the reason that we have issues with email is that others use it incorrectly. Copying us on something we really didn’t need to now about. Or sending an email when a quick IM or text would have been the best course of action. That problem isn’t solved by a rule or a strategy. It can only be solved by teaching others to communicate in a more appropriate way.